Gungor, Inerrancy, and Biblical Literalism

If you’re part of the evangelical church, chances are you’ve heard the recent controversy surrounding statements made by Michael Gungor. While Gungor has never been shy about his theology, it’s only as of late that the quotes from an old blog post have made news. An article was posted to Facebook today regarding the subject and, while I would normally keep scrolling, the title made me take pause. Perhaps it was because the quote used in the title (“No reasonable person takes the Bible literally.”) was something that Gungor never actually said.

As I perused the article, I couldn’t help but notice two things. First, the author seems to have written the article for the express purpose of attacking and discrediting Michael Gungor. Second, the author makes several statements concluding that biblical inerrancy is irrevocably tied to biblical literalism, stating that Gungor is “misrepresenting those who believe in the complete inerrancy of the Bible.”

The latter was my main objection because it exemplifies a line of thought all too common in the evangelical church: that biblical literalism is equivalent to complete inerrancy. This line of thinking begins to break down when one is asked to consider books like Revelation, Job, or the Psalms. Very few people would argue that the book of Revelation is literal in nature. In fact, nobody really knows how to interpret that book because it’s not meant to be read literally. Likewise, we read the parables of Jesus and divine from them the underlying truths, yet we understand that they were not descriptions of actual events. Rather, they were tools for communicating truth to a group of people in a manner they would understand. This was Jesus’ main method of teaching.

As Jesus is one with the Father, it is a natural assumption that the natures of the two are analogous. If one takes into consideration the nature of those to whom Creation was first revealed, it makes sense that God would do so in the same way Christ taught: parable. A group of nomads living some ten-to-fifteen thousand years ago could not possibly comprehend the immense complexity of the universe with their primitive knowledge. What they could comprehend, however, were the important underlying truths: that God created everything we see, that we are crafted in his image, that we were made perfect but sinned, and that we are in need of redemption. These are no less true whether one reads Genesis 1-3 literally or figuratively. Another important note is that Young Earth Creationism is by-and-large a product of the twentieth century and is, in part, a reaction to the Scopes Monkey Trial of 1925. It developed out of a fear of evolutionary theory and an inability to see unity between science and faith.

This has happened repeatedly throughout the course of history. Remember what happened to Galileo when he supported Copernicus’ heliocentric view of the universe? Yet, nobody would argue today that the sun orbits the earth.

The primary problem here is that the church is dogmatizing things which, in the end, are of little significance. In doing so, it is creating a false dichotomy which says that science and faith are mutually exclusive. An unfortunate stigma which the author is perpetuating.

As a body, the church needs to be more understanding and accepting of different views and put an emphasis on the knowledge of what’s really important: that God made and rules over all, that we are made in his image, that we have a sin nature, and that we have a redeemer in Christ. Interpretations of the Creation account do nothing to change these truths, and insisting otherwise only creates division within the church when we should be seeking unity.


colonialist · April 13, 2018 at 7:42 PM

It seems strange that reporting a true statement (whether actually made or not) would create any controversy. Only the lunatic fringe take the bible completely literally, including most of the bible stories fed to children.

    Michael Halstead · April 14, 2018 at 3:18 AM

    Indeed, it does. While I am a proponent of a literal approach to scripture, I also believe it’s extremely important to understand the type of literature you are reading. In many instances, the inspired humans were writing in poetic or symbolic ways (Psalms, is one major example). Knowledge is key.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *